Harvard Takes Additional Steps To Confront Ties To Slavery

The university on Friday hosted a conference exploring the historical ties between slavery and early universities founded in the Colonial Era.

Last year, Harvard President Drew Faust, a Civil War historian, recognized four slaves who had lived on the Cambridge campus in the 1700s. Harvard Law School has also promised to change its shield modeled on the family crest of a slaveholder.

During Friday’s conference, Faust asked author and keynote speaker Ta-Nehisi Coates how higher education can fully amend for the past.

“The most important thing is to make people first of all aware of the debt. People don’t accept the debt. You know, so it’s like let’s move to this conversation about financing, but you don’t even accept that you owe anybody anything, you know, which for me seems a little backwards,” Coates told Faust.

Harvard is the latest university to revisit its role in the slave trade following Brown, Columbia and Yale. In September, Georgetown said it will give descendants of slaves owned by the school the same admission preference it gives to children of alumni.

Related: How Should Colleges Acknowledge And Memorialize Their Ties To Slavery?

[Cross-posted at On Campus: the WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.